Victoria-area politicians are considering putting limits on the number of dogs people can walk and charging a fee for dog-walking businesses who use regional parks amid complaints about packs of wandering animals.
Capital Regional District politicians are poised to approve a bylaw next month that would cap the number of dogs walked at one time to three for individuals and eight for professional walkers.
Mayor David Screech of the suburban community of View Royal said in an interview that people regularly tell him they encounter dogs numbering nine or more animals while on hikes in area parks.
"It was certainly prompted by public concerns," said Screech, adding he receives emails and calls from people concerned about large numbers of dogs in Thetis Lake Regional Park in his community.
The 833-hectare park includes a series of woodland trails and is a favourite hiking area for people, with or without their dogs.
"We've been getting more and more complaints from people, especially in Thetis Lake Park about large groups of dogs, as many as nine, 10, 11 and 12 under the jurisdiction of one owner," Screech said. "What it comes down to is the basic issue of how many dogs can one person control."
But Pam Delaney, who was at a Victoria off-leash dog park Thursday, said she's happy to see large groups of dogs in area parks.
"They behave better, it seems, in a pack," she said. "Dog owners used to keep their dogs away from each other, not realizing they are social animals who love getting together, which is so obvious here."
About a dozen dogs were in the park's open area chasing after each other.
Sarah Spindler, who was walking her two border collie-cross dogs, Cedar and Salty, said she felt the bylaw was unnecessary.
"It kind of seems to me it's one of those rules that they make to make a rule," she said.
Spindler said she understands why some people might be concerned about large groups of dogs, but those people should choose to stay out of the parks.
"A whole pack of dogs coming at you could be a little overwhelming," she said. "To me it's a known dog walking area, so you know what you are going to run into."
Screech, who's on the district's park's committee, said it recommended approval of the bylaw after hearing complaints from people that too many animals are under the control of one person.
He said the bylaw will go before the entire regional district board next month, and if approved, will set out a code of conduct for owners and charge a $320 licence fee for professional dog-walking businesses.
"I do think everybody has the right to feel comfortable when using a park," said Screech. "There needs to be a balance that works for everybody and that's what we're attempting to strike."
If approved, the new dog limit rules would be in place by May 1, 2018.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press